Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have each volunteered to receive their Covid-19 vaccine in public and on-camera in a bid to boost shaky public confidence in the vaccines’ safety, which has been undermined by their speedy development and months of politicization on both sides of the aisle.
Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton have said they will get vaccinated for Covid-19 in public to … [+]
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The three most recent former presidents have said they want to do their part to address the significant problem of vaccine hesitancy in the U.S., and encourage the public to go out and get vaccinated against Covid-19 when the Food and Drug Administration has authorized one, which it is expected to do so in the coming days and weeks.
Obama told SiriusXM’s Joe Madison that he understands why the African American community in particular would be wary of getting a jab, pointing to the long history of exploitation by medical establishments, such as in the notorious Tuskegee syphilis study.
“The fact of the matter is, is that vaccines are why we don’t have… diseases [like polio, smallpox and measles] that used to decimate entire populations and communities,” Obama said.
“I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science, and what I don’t trust is getting Covid,” Obama added.
CNN reports that President Bush has reached out to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Deborah Birx, who coordinates the White House Covid-19 task force, to “gladly” get his vaccine on camera once it is proven safe and given to priority populations.
President Clinton’s press secretary confirmed that he, too, would take a vaccine when made available to him according to public health priorities, and would be happy to “do it in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same.”
As the return of vaccine-preventable diseases to the U.S. sadly illustrates, vaccine hesitancy, or outright opposition, is a considerable threat to public health. These issues are magnified with Covid-19, with wild conspiracy theories, outlandish misinformation and brazen denialism colliding with the fact that a number of these vaccines have been developed, tested and, barring the unexpected, approved at an unprecedented pace for a virus that is believed to have only emerged a year ago. In these circumstances, hesitancy is unsurprising and to be expected, especially, as Obama notes, in groups that have been poorly served, or even exploited, by the medical establishment. President Trump, with his penchant for peddling falsehoods, has done little to instill public confidence, instead insisting on doing things at “warp speed” and openly pressuring officials to rush through approvals. While Trump seems willing to soak up praise for the speed at which the vaccines have been developed, his three most recent predecessors realize — alongside leaders elsewhere in the world — that the pandemic does not stop at the development of a vaccine, it will stop when enough people have taken the vaccine to interrupt the virus’ spread.
What To Watch For
In the coming weeks and months, it is likely high profile figures will be stepping forward to get their vaccines in public. There are already reports that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was hospitalized with Covid-19 early on in the pandemic, is planning to do so.
The U.K. became the first country to clinically approve a Covid-19 vaccine Wednesday, authorizing Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for emergency use. A decision in the U.S. is expected next week.